James Owen Thomas holding two artworks 

My name is James Owen Thomas and I am 17 years old. Much more than meets the eye is my exhibition and this is my story.

You've got to be strong to be different and the way I keep myself strong is through my collage art.

Four years ago, a discarded scratch card floating in a puddle of water by the road caught my attention as the sunlight seemed to make its colours glisten.

For something most people would consider unpleasant rubbish, I decided to pick it up, clean it and keep it safe in a plastic container.

From that moment I noticed how many scratch cards were to be seen littering our streets, parks and hedgerows. I had to do something about it and started picking them all up, building quite a collection and decided to use some of the colourful parts and symbols of the scratch cards to create pictures. This is how my interest in making mosaic-style collages with torn or cut pieces of scratch cards began. Nowadays, many of the used scratch cards that I need are donated by people I know, and also some shops which are good enough to save them for me. They tell me that in time the discarded scratch cards may only go into landfill and are happy to pass them on to me.

To understand why I do all this, I'll go back further...

I was born in Eastbourne, East Sussex and remember my enjoyment at looking at the views of the coast, especially the "Chalk Cliffs" and any boats at sea. I was regularly taken to art galleries as I was fascinated by the artwork. I am told that in my early childhood, I learned to communicate by looking at pictures.

Chalk Cliffs 
Chalk Cliffs

Drawings and photographs have always been important to me and were my way forward. My own pictures represent important places and events in my life. I completed Abbey Ruins in 2015 and it was my first collage made from scratch cards. I was pleased to find how much other people liked them and my confidence went from strength to strength.

My palette of colours to create collages comes from various scratch cards that I find and collect. By adding layers of cut or torn pieces of scratch cards, I can create a 3D effect in my art and recently I was asked to do a collage of the front of Ripon Cathedral and rather than using strips of scratch cards, I decided to experiment with my own version of Pointillism! Instead of painting dots, I hole-punched thousands of circular pieces from scratch cards to create the collage. Occasionally I may add coloured foil and other recycled wrappings as I did for my "Puffin" picture. 

Puffin by James Owen Thomas

Through my interest in nature, horticulture and, in particular, birdwatching, I began to enjoy photography and transform my photographs into collage art. The different birds that I see in my garden at home have been inspiration to my artwork. I like to work on ideas from my own photography, and all the subjects I have chosen for my artwork are linked to places where I have lived, or visited, or have family connections.

My grandfather moved away from his home town in Yorkshire when he was just a teenager and joined the Royal Navy. My grandfather's middle name was Hulton and when we moved from East Sussex to Yorkshire and started a craft business, we decided to name it after him. I have also dedicated my collage, "At Sea" to him.

At sea - James Owen Thomas 
At Sea

The countryside and seaside have both featured in much of my art so far. While living in the Yorkshire Dales, I have enjoyed, amongst other things, photographing barns, dry stone walls and sheep! I am also interested in creating collages of other animals such as red squirrels. I love the Yorkshire Dales as much as the South Downs and intend to continue to feature them both in my artwork.

David Hockney's art has been an inspiration to me for a long time and led to my "Woodland Walk" collage. Van Gogh and Seurat are two of my favourite artists and I have found inspiration from both, as well as Yayoi Kusama's style of working with dot patterns.

I display and sell greetings cards and copies of my artwork in Yorkshire Dales National Park Centres as well as various other galleries, tourist offices and museum and gift shops.

I had an exhibition at the Yorkshire Dales office in Bainbridge from 7 March to 30 April. During the exhibition, I offered to donate the money raised from one of my pieces of artwork to Shelter. It is called Seascape and it is the first time I have created a collage around one of my photographs. It took many hours to make and is now complete with a white frame and a transparent art glass finish.

Seascape by James Owen Thomas 

For more information on my work and my exhibitions, please visit www.hultoncrafts.co.uk/art.